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The House has passed legislation to reauthorize school lunch and breakfast programs, and the Senate was expected to give final approval to the bill late last week.

Aides said the bill would require districts to meet nutritional guidelines recently proposed by the U.S. Agriculture Department by the 1996-97 school year, but they may get waivers from state officials until 1998.

The bill would also allow districts to forgo doing detailed nutritional analyses of foods in order to comply with the guidelines, as the U.S.D.A. proposed. Instead, they could use a "food based" system to insure foods in a given meal meet such requirements as a fat-content limit of 30 percent of calories.

The bill would also allow districts to stop serving whole milk if it accounted for less than 1 percent of students' preferences in the previous year. The U.S.D.A. would buy low-fat cheese in an amount equivalent to lost milk fat sales.

The bill would also:

  • Direct the U.S.D.A. to inform schools that they may ban the sale of vending-machine foods before the end of the last lunch period, and recommend to elementary schools that they do so.
  • Make children in Head Start and Even Start programs automatically eligible for free meals.
  • Allow school districts to refuse unlimited amounts of produce issued by the Agriculture Department if it is spoiled or unusable.
  • Make permanent the "cash/commodity letter of credit" program that allows districts to substitute other foods for the commodities issued by the U.S.D.A.

More Breakfasts

More low-income students than ever are starting the school day with full stomachs, according to the Food Research and Action Center.

A record number of schools and students are participating in the federal school breakfast program, the advocacy group says in its annual "School Breakfast Scorecard," released last week.

The group noted that 58,000, or 64 percent, of the 90,000 schools that provide school lunches also offer breakfast to low-income students. About five million children now receive breakfast at school, compared with approximately 13 million who participate in the school lunch program.

Since 1987, the number of schools participating in the breakfast program has increased nearly 60 percent, and the number of students served has risen 57 percent.

Vocational Education

The Education Department has published a notice outlining what Administration officials view as the central issues in the upcoming reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act and requesting public comment.

The department listed six general principles that will guide its reauthorization proposal: aligning programs with the national education goals; promoting world-class standards; connecting vocational and adult education to broader reform objectives; linking the Perkins Act and the Adult Education Act to better prepare youths and young adults for employment; coordinating those programs with federal job-training and student-aid programs; and building bridges between vocational education, adult education, and the new School-to-Work Opportunities Act.

The notice appeared in the Sept. 20 Federal Register; comments should be sent by Nov. 4 to the U.S. Department of Education, 600 Independence Ave., S.W., Room 4090-MES, Washington, D.C. 20202.

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